Behind The Lens: Unique Reference 28 Inverse By Kari Voutilainen
The date: March 20, 2019. The place: Basel, Switzerland, in a small restaurant/bar just off Clarahofweg.The event: independent watchmakers’ reception prior to the opening of Baselworld 2019.
Three years ago! The time has both passed by in a flash and seemingly dragged on forever, but I won’t soon forget the evening that a close friend of mine and I made our way to the pre-opening independents’ party at Baselworld in 2019.
Among the crowd of makers, enthusiasts, and photographers we quickly made our way to say hello to Kari Voutilainen, who wasted no time in showing us a breathtaking piece: his 28ti, number 0, in titanium, the precursor to limited editions of eight watches each in titanium, platinum, and tantalum.
I immediately texted the other members of our NorCal Gang to shout the praises of this stunning watch; subsequently almost all the group signed up, either for one of the first limited series or for unique variants such as the one we’re looking at here, recently delivered to the friend whom I accompanied to the bar that night in Basel.
What’s cool about the Kari Voutilainen 28 Inverse?
As it’s been a while since Voutilainen launched this reference I won’t take you through a lengthy explanation of the watch here – Joshua has already done that – but will mention a few things I particularly like about the design.
It’s deep: quite deep, literally, as the Inverse is almost two millimeters thicker than the non-inverted Vingt-8 to accommodate the addition of the small bridges needed to reverse the direction of the time-telling hands and incorporate a tensioning spring to stabilize the minute hand.
While some might not appreciate the added thickness, it allows for lots of dimensionality and some delightful deep shadows and contrasts for both wearer and photographer.
If you look at the photos, you can also make out the concave front bezel, which both helps to slim the look of the watch case a bit and reduces the scratch magnet factor of the polished metal. Also note that the oversized crown that in photos can look a bit large but that in person helps the visual balance and also provides a satisfying winding feel.
The balance bridge works: I surprised some of my friends when I mentioned this, but for whatever reason I’ve never really favored the long balance bridge of the Vingt-8 movement as seen on the reverse of the watch. But when it’s exposed on the front side and framed with the added bridges and hands, I think it looks great.
Thoughtful positioning: twice daily, the wearer gets a little treat as the blued ring on the hour hand hovers directly over the Incabloc shock protection assembly on the balance with its mirror-polished sink. Voutilainen didn’t have to design the dimensions this way, but it’s small touches like this that make a watch really special.
What’s unique about this one?
But wait a minute: isn’t this just a ninth example in platinum added on to the limited edition of eight that was initially announced?
If you’ve followed Voutilainen’s career, you’ll know by now that he’s long been willing to supplement limited series with variations of a reference that incorporate one or more changes. In the case of this watch, there are several tweaks that make it distinct enough for me to concur with its “unique” designation.
Let’s start with the case: unlike the stock 28 Inverse with its traditional teardrop lugs, this watch features the modified cutaway lugs previously seen on the 28Sport. I think the cutaway look suits the watch, and while the teardrop look is somewhat of a Voutilainen hallmark, for someone who owns several of Kari’s watches it’s a pleasant change of pace.
I refer to this as a “cutaway” look because if you were to superimpose a somewhat lengthened version of a Voutilainen teardrop atop this lug, you’d see that it is fundamentally a teardrop with negative spaces carved into it – a very cool way of introducing something new while adhering to established design codes in my opinion.
The next change from stock, and an obvious one given the matching strap, is the use of a lighter blue chapter ring similar to the color used on the tantalum limited edition of the 28 Inverse.
And while you’re checking out the colors (and shadows, and lug shape, and crown size, and ruthenium-frosted movement finishing that is stock but nonetheless tremendously striking), in the photo above take a look at the hands.
If I have a complaint about the stock Inverse, it’s the limited legibility of the polished hands against the busy background of the movement. On this watch, Voutilainen used his wet-sanding technique that yields a surface that looks almost white and somewhat rough, but that in reality is a very bright silver that is smooth to the touch.
The result is both increased legibility and further enhancement of the sense of depth as the hands hover over the movement.
On to the back
On the reverse of the Inverse (say that fast five times . . . ) the unique chapter ring color from the front of the watch is carried over to the seconds scale and power reserve.
The unique status of this piece is signified on the rear in two ways: the “Unique Piece” engraving on the case, and the “1/1” designation on the small plate affixed to the movement.
Color and markings aside, looking at the back of this watch gives us additional opportunities to enjoy the finished surfaces that are normally hidden under the dial of a standard Vingt-8, along with the supplemental cutaways and interior angles that Voutilainen has added to the Inverse to reveal the wheels below.
It’s also a treat to see the exposed rack system that operates the power reserve indicator. And as a stickler for these things I particularly like that the second hand turns clockwise as God intended rather than counterclockwise as we see in some case back indications of the seconds from other makers.
And one more thing
If all of that isn’t enough to spark joy, there is one more unique feature to this particular watch: Voutilainen agreed to supply a second set of chapter rings in a lovely salmon color.
I didn’t actually pry off the case back and change out the chapter ring, but with the power of Photoshop I was able to “substitute” the main chapter ring from the photo above into one of my earlier images. And while I was at it, I cloned the color of the strap to match. The obvious lesson: don’t believe everything you see in online photos! That caution aside, I think the salmon look is absolutely killer on this watch.
And of course, I gave the reverse of the watch the same treatment, this time darkening the strap to a navy blue hue just for fun.
Looking at these photos, and having seen the watch in person, I continue to kick myself that I passed up the opportunity to buy one of these superb pieces for myself! I suppose the consolation is that this and several others are in the collections of good friends, and I’ll have other opportunities to strap one on and drool a bit in the years ahead.
I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on the 28 Inverse, unique or not, in the comments below. In the meantime, happy wearing!
For more information, please visit www.voutilainen.ch/item/28ti.
Quick Facts Kari Voutilainen 28 Inverse
Case: 39 x 13.4 mm in a variety of metals with polished bezels and case band; front and rear sapphire crystals
Dial and hands: open dial with in-house silver chapter ring; in-house gold hands
Movement: manually wound in-house 28i movement; 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz frequency, power reserve 65 hours, Voutilainen direct-impulse escapement with two escape wheels
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, and power reserve on reverse of watch
Limitation: series of 8 pieces each in titanium, platinum, and tantalum; additional unique pieces in white gold, pink gold, and platinum
Price: CHF 86,000 (titanium); CHF 98,000 (platinum); CHF 118,000 (tantalum)
Production years: 2019 onward